What I Learned During My First Semester in Seminary
The year was 1975. I had just graduated from college with a B.A. in Bible and was beginning my seminary studies. My first exposure to graduate school was, in many ways, unsatisfactory. No advanced standing was given for my college courses, and my introductory classes were exceedingly repetitious. What made matters worse was the number of adjunctive, part-time faculty employed by the seminary. My Hermeneutics class, for example, was being taught by a Th.M. student who knew barely more than I did about biblical interpretation. This was the first course he had ever taught, and it showed. To top it off, his lecture notes obviously were taken from Bernard Ramm’s classic textbook Protestant Biblical Interpretation – though he never told us that. Here I was, taking one of the most foundational courses in seminary from a complete novice who apparently hadn’t even made the effort to prepare his own lecture notes. To say that I was unhappy would be a gross understatement.
One day I had had enough. In a moment of utter exasperation I brought Dr. Ramm’s book to class. I sat in the front row where the instructor could see me clearly and, with a conspicuous smirk on my face, read along in the book as the teacher stumbled through his notes. When I left class that day I came to a stark new realization.
Somebody had a huge problem, and that somebody was me.
You see, my in-your-face gesture had not escaped the notice of the Holy Spirit. He was all over me. Graciously He brought me to an understanding of my merciless pride and arrogance. I determined then and there that my seminary professors would see a new Dave Black from that day on.
And they did. No, my classroom expectations were not lowered. But my attitude had changed completely. Every day before class I prayed, “Lord, I know that these are the classes you want me to be in, and if there is anything good to be gleaned from attending them today, I will be open and receptive to it.”
Miraculously, my professors “improved” over night. They had not changed at all, of course. It was I who was learning one of the most important lessons of life: “pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). The Holy Spirit was helping me to see just how perilous and evil my malignant self-centeredness was. I had disregarded the Scriptures that warn: “You have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but by love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13); and “All of you be subject to one another and be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5). An arrogant, critical spirit is not only dangerous, it is sinful. Such thinking is contrary to God’s Word.
I shall never forget that lesson. I recognized for the first time that I was responsible for my attitude in the classroom. I discovered that God was in the process of molding me to be less dependent on my circumstances and more dependent on Him. I learned that I needed to be patient with fledging teachers who were trying to do their best.
Above all, I discovered that God has chosen to put His treasure in weak and worthless vessels with no glory in themselves in order to show that the supreme power belongs to Him, not to us.
August 28, 2006
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.